I am calling you from Windows… Oh really?

Ars Technica has a great piece about the scammy calls I sometimes get when I pick up my house phone (currently broke).

When the call came yesterday morning, I assumed at first I was being trolled—it was just too perfect to be true. My phone showed only “Private Caller” and, when I answered out of curiosity, I was connected to “John,” a young man with a clear Indian accent who said he was calling from “Windows Technical Support.” My computer, he told me, had alerted him that it was infested with viruses. He wanted to show me the problem—then charge me to fix it.

Thankfully somethings happening to stop this scam

This scam itself is a few years old now, but I had not personally received one of the calls until yesterday—the very day that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a major crackdown on such “boiler room” call center operations. The very day that six civil lawsuits were filed against the top practitioners

Its a shame Ars Technica didn’t record it, but of course I did, twice…!


Revolutionising your desktop one step at a time

Desktop Agosto 2011

Recently I’ve had the joy of taking the tram into work everyday. I keep meaning to buy a monthly pass but having to get a photocard done at the GMPTE (greater manchester transport, like TFL is to London) but forget. Anyway some people may have noticed I’m tweeting a lot of links and passages from my Kindle. This only works due to the wifi hotspot on my rooted HTC desire, because of course the Trams don’t have wifi but have the advantage of being above ground and crossing Manchester City centre.

One of the posts I read via Linux Magazine was about the design choices going into the next generation desktops.

The post talks about the outrage by different communities involved with the next generation of desktops.

This is something I feel very strongly about because of my disdain of Ubuntu’s unity desktop. I understand some of the reasons which make it opinionated software but it doesn’t mean I have to like it 🙂 So I switched to using the very much beta Gnome3 desktop which is a breath of fresh air but also has problems (even on my new thinkpad x220).

At work I tend to switch between the two because I’m driving a 24″ full HD display along side my laptop screen, so keep logging in and out for reasons I’ll explain another day.

In the post, it talks about how Gnome3, Ubuntu Unity and KDE4 have had problems because they all have made some difficult changes. But to be honest this is consistent with Microsoft Windows 8’s move into Metro and OSX’s move into a more iOS type platform. All are tricky and full of people upset and confused.

To be honest they could all learn from the points of the post…

  • Don’t change too much too quickly
  • Build user testing into each stage of the development
  • Whenever possible, leave legacy features in place
  • Don’t impose work-flows from above
  • Beware of designer fads
  • Don’t view function and aesthetics as separate
  • If a design is too noticeable, then maybe it’s too clever to use
  • Talk to your readers as you work
There all valid and good points. I’m sure most of the linux desktops are doing most of these. Interesting point however is the tension between
opinionated software and the last point talking to the users of your work. Being too proud or too precious will ultimately put you in a worst position overall in my book, but I’m sure others would totally disagree…?

Time to hack the Pacemaker

Pacemaker in my Hand

I love my pacemaker but Tonium have really screwed the community of pacemaker djs.

It started when they moved lets mix from a pacemaker community to a generic dj community. I understand the reason why they did it but the pacemaker only djs were pretty much invaded by all types of other djs. Tonium did setup a getsatisfaction account and people started using that to voice there concerns. But after a few years, get satisfaction reports Pacemaker monitors but is not active in this community. There hasn’t been a update in years now and there’s still plenty of outstanding issues.

My pacemaker is still working as good as it always has but I could certainly do with a replacement battery. It currently lasts about 2 hours while recording is on, it use to last about 5 hours.

I couldn’t get the Pacemaker editor working with Wine again, so I finally switched to using VirtualBox (virtualisation) the closed source version because you have to use the USB to talk to the Pacemaker. It is a pain having to drag the mixes over and export them but it does work.

Open source Pacemaker

on the forums

Amias Channer wrote 1 day ago

has anyone reported tonium to the eff for GPL violations ? you are required to make source code available if you use GPL’ed code and the EFF have a legal fund to force companies to do this tonium, please save yourself a lot of money (you will have to pay their expenses) and publish the damn code. its not hard to do. i will help you if you don’t know how.

musicinstinct commented 1 day ago

I noticed if you go into settings on the device, select ‘about’ and then ‘legal notice’, then scroll down to the bottom you will find a notice that source code is available by sending 5 EUR to GPL Compliance Manager at Tonium AB. I wonder if anyone has tried this and successfully received it?

Amias Channer commented 1 day ago

http://getsatisfaction.com/pacemaker/…
this thread suggests that they have been refused every time.

So it looks like Tonium could be in breech of the GPL, but this may take a long time to resolve its self.

So its time to hack the pacemaker

I said for a while since the pacemaker does actually mount on Linux, it should be easy to hack it specially because it seems to store everything in .pacemaker and uses a SQLlite database for most of its things.

Musicinstinct wrote

I’ve also managed to access the tracks database using sqlite manager in Ubuntu, but in order to successfully install new tracks I would need to create the metadata. This is an XML file and should be doable if we can reverse engineer the format of the beat mapping data, or get access to the source code.

So now its the race to understand the XML format and create a schema which works with the pacemaker. Of course there is now another forum if your interested in following the hacking.

Fun times ahead…

The end of the road for Windows Home Server?

Just read about the changes to the Windows Home Server on my Kindle via Ars Technica.

Microsoft’s Windows Home Server is a funny little product. The company’s ambition when developing the product was to have us all run little home servers: small, low-power, appliance-like machines with some network connectivity and gobs of storage. We’d use these home servers as a place to back up our PCs, share files and printers across our home networks, stream media to our Xboxes, and gain remote access to our files when away from home.

In practice, most of these things can be done perfectly well with a normal desktop version of Windows. Windows Home Server does have some advantages—it had a management front-end that let the server be easily controlled remotely, and it is based on Windows Server 2003 to slim down its own hardware demands—but for the most part, it isn’t doing anything too unusual. As a result, Windows Home Server has remained a niche product. Much loved by its users, but never really making it as a mass-market success.

It does, however, have one special feature, a feature without any real equivalent in any other version of Windows, whether for desktop or for server. That feature is called Drive Extender. Conceptually, Drive Extender is quite simple: it allows multiple hard disks (regardless of interface or size) to be aggregated to provide a single large pool of storage. Folders on the pooled storage could also be selectively replicated, meaning that Drive Extender would ensure that copies of the files were found on multiple physical disks.

It goes on to say HP (one of the biggest supporters of WHS) will no longer be supporting WHS, instead they will be developing there own WebOS.

Engadget is reporting that many of the HP staff previously working on MediaSmart have been redeployed to focus on webOS devices, though any direct webOS-powered equivalent to the MediaSmart systems seems unlikely.

So much for Microsoft Windows Home Server… I got a feeling it was released too early and I do stand by the idea that most people will have a Home Server in there home in the very near future, even with the deluge of online backup services and streaming services.

App sharing

Android phone

App referrer sends app links to your friends via qr codes via Lifehacker

We’ve all been in that situation: you’re sitting next to your friend, with both your phones out, and you tell them about this "awesome new app you found". Then he or she has to pull up the Market and manually search for the app ("What’s it called?" "Space or no space?" "It’s spelled with leet speak?"). There are a number of ways to share files and apps between phones, but App Referrer keeps it simple—you don’t need to set up any kind of connection between the phones, just open it up, tap the app you want to send, and it’ll generate a Market QR code that they can scan right then and there.

I stood up at Mix 2009 (the Microsoft developer conference in Las Vegas) and said to the Windows mobile team,

One of the benefits you have with Windows Mobile is the CAB format (Cabinet). You can share the CABs with friends over email, email, bluetooth, etc… Yes its not as sexy as the apple store but when you want to share an app it just works and you don’t want to give directions on how to download it on the app store. Microsoft should keep that format and allow people to share apps if there free on the app store.

Did they listen to me? No… They followed the Apple model and forced people to download from the app store. I told them they were crazy, people were using bluetooth to share apps and media. Anyway, I’m happy that I wasn’t the only one thinking this.

App referrer is interesting but one thing I noticed on my Android phone was an app (HTC or Orange) called App sharing. You can share via,

  • Bluetooth
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • My Friends Stream
  • MMS
  • EMail/Gmail
  • Text
  • Twitter
  • Read it Later
  • Delicious
  • WordPress

I guess when you do any of these it sends a APK file, just like I suggested to Microsoft back in Las Vegas…!

Fact is App sharing makes sense (specially when the app is free), why force people to the app store to get the same app as there friends…? Crazy! I swear theres some lessons which can be learned from the pirates dilemma.

Windows phone 7 interface

Windows phone 7

I actually like the new interface of Windows phone 7. The Zune type interface works well on a small device and to be fair it all makes a lot of sense. I’ll be honest and say its fresh and somewhat exciting to see Microsoft’s Mobile team take a total step back and attempt to redesign the whole experience of the mobile again. No icons, no chrome, no backgrounds, just a sliding scope which logically makes sense. Impressive! I can’t believe this is the same company who worked hard on version 6.5!

I’ll have to reconsider writing off Microsoft in the mobile world.

I told you I would never upgrade to Windows Vista

My Ubuntu desktop

It took quite a long time but I finally got fed up with Windows XP when weird services started showing up plus it would take 1min to suspend. I could have reinstalled XP, upgraded to Vista or moved to Ubuntu 7.04. Although its not exactly the best time to do so, I moved to Ubuntu GNU/Linux and I'm slowly porting my settings and data over from the Windows drive. So far, Firefox, Thunderbird, Keepass, Hamachi are all up and running. I'll get the tricker stuff going tomorrow.

I'm finding ubuntuguide.org and TuxMobil useful by the way.

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Windows Home Server add-ons in the near future?

Window home server

So I'm still having problems getting my XP laptop to back up to the home server but while looking around I found a load of ideas for what could be added to Windows Home Server to improve its experience even further. I got a few of my own but heres a few I found while looking around.

  1. Memory Stick Backups – A service that will run on my desktop or laptop and automatically back up my USB memory stick whenever I plug it in.  Each memory stick should be backed up to the same location on the server no matter which computer I plug it in to.
  2. Download Manager – Automatically hand off regular downloads from Internet Explorer to be downloaded and stored on my home server.
  3. User Account Sync – Automatically create user accounts on client PCs for each Windows Home Server user account.  Automatically update passwords.
  4. Favorites Sync – Sync my favorites to a folder on WHS. (I know I can do this with foldershare.  Add-in would be much better.)  Also include Desktop Sync, My Documents Sync, etc.
  1. Activesync backups – How cool would it be if Activesync backups were also included in backups but as another machine.
  2. Bit Torrent client/server with TVRSS – Someones got add this one day soon, I mean imagine utorrent or azureus which both can be run headless or from the web, inside of home server. Also imagine being able to make any file or folder a torrent to share with friends and family.
  3. Podcast client – Same as the bit torrent one really but just RSS.
  4. Notifications – I would like to see notifications via email, im and other means.
  5. VPN – VPN tunnel between two or more home servers, so you can maybe sync up with off-site backup or a friends server.
  6. Rar support – Yes I could install Winrar but I don't want to and its about time windows generally supported rar like it supports zip.
  7. Webdav – Ideally it all shares would have the option of being a webdav share too. People are hacking this already using IIS.
  8. DAAP – Someones got to hack this into the home server at some point. I've already noticed people asking for itunes support on the windows home server forum.
  9. XBSP – No where near essential but support for the xbox media centre streaming protocal would be nice too.
  10. Zeroconf – Yes universal plug and play is ok but we need some zeroconf/bonjour/mdns to hook up to things like mac products and some of the devices you can now get.

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More thoughts about the iPhone ongoing drama

iphone

So the truth is starting to trickle out. First a note on openness via Kid666.

In The New York Times, Steve Jobs confirms every developer’s worst fears about the iPhone:

‘These [iPhones] are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.’

If Microsoft said that, everyone would jump and down (like they are about Vista) but Apple says it and the follows shake there heads like zombies. As Kidd666 says, nooooooo!

3G also looks like it won't happen says Engadget

It's not unheard of for a firmware upgrade to unlock new features or functionality in a device, but the sources we've spoken to have made it pretty clear that Apple hasn't wedged a UMTS or HSDPA radio into this thing.

A couple of other things. Did Apple steal Visual Voicemail? on top of stealing the maybe dropped trademarked name of iPhone by Cisco. I kinda of agree with Nokia no usable 3G and europe (which is a bigger market and us europeans are use to something small and powerful in our hands? DLTV) will have to wait comments. It is also worth checking out what DL.TV make of us Europeans.

Phones compared in size

And I'm also pretty much done talking about it now. Still very worried about the closed nature of the device but then again the iPod is also a closed type device and you can even run linux on it now. Its also worth pointing out that the Candy Bar touchscreen devices are very much the way forward now.

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Serious Window Problem indentified by Microsoft

After listening to Security now Episode 58, I had write a quick blog post to warn people about this very (I would say) critical flaw in Windows XP and IE. I have temporarily patched my systems by unregistering the VGX DLL. I would highly suggest everyone do the same by copying the following code into your run dialog box and restarting your machine.

regsvr32 -u “%CommonProgramFiles%Microsoft SharedVGXvgx.dll”

Much more information and another flaw affecting only Windows 2000 users can be found at the security now notes page.

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Steve Gibson says Windows Metafile was a backdoor

So while in the shower today I was listening to Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson's Security now number 22. I almost fell in the shower after hearing the possibility that Microsoft maybe covered up a backdoor in Windows. Simply put Steve Gibson is suggesting that Microsoft or some people involved in the code for the Windows Metafile (WMF) put in a backdoor. Aka it was not a flaw or vunerability, a backdoor! If this is true I'm speechless.

Its easy to think of this as a conspiracy and put on your foil hats now but this deadly serious. Even Steve has admitted if he's wrong he will be the first to admit he's wrong but he really doesnt believe this. He's actually put a lot on the line for this. Personally I think this is just a long line of the mainstream lying to us. Think about it Sony and there badly written DRM and worst still badly written Rootkit. Lies and more damm lies. Even when there pants were down they tried to cover it up by saying people didnt even know what a rootkit was so why tell them. I remember quoting Miles in my post about the Rootkit saying Apple and Microsoft must be pissing themselves with laughter. Well its now Microsoft's time and Apple are not getting away clean. Theres lots of talk about iTunes in the context of useage patterns feedback and the reduction of uses of the sharing feature across the versions. So Apple users don't even laugh because Apple are hardly saints either.

But back to this claim of a backdoor in Windows. If it turns out to be true (and honestly Steve's explaining actually makes a lot of sense I have to say). We have to wonder how many more there are? Who put this backdoor there and who actually knows about it? I expect by the time this gets out there it will make the large news sources quickly. I've not looked on Digg, slashdot, boingboing yet because I'm on the 10am train into London Bridge. Tell a lie, I just did a search through Digg on the my aggregator and this came up (which is close but not the same) this came up.. I'll digg it when I get back online in about 20mins. Looking at the date of the Digg story (7:30am) its still too early for most of the Western world and may not have had time to circlate yet. Steve did say this was a exclusive to Security now and he's only known about it for about a day at most. Anyhow, we shall see what happens. By the way the people who came out of this smelling pretty sweet has to be Hackers. If it wasn't for hackers and reverse engineering we would never know. This is critical to remember no matter how it turns out.

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Why I dont want a Ipod or PSP

Going digital

This post to slashdot by Zonk sums up my thoughts too,

As the owner of a PocketPC PDA I am a very happy camper, with wifi internet access, Skype Voip, video playback, and of course the ubiquitous mp3 playback. In an era were everyone seems to talk about the Video iPod, and the next generation of mobile devices, it leaves me wondering – I already have all those abilities in a PDA that costs about as much as an iPod. My question for Slashdot: Given that modern PDAs have almost all the functionality of these separate devices, how has Palm and Microsoft/PocketPC developers failed in making PDAs a force in this new era of portable media devices? It is the poor marketing, bad media apps, public perception, or do people simply not want an all-in-one for mobile media?

And as I expect, its horse's for course's as my dad says.

Gumber says

Because more functionality isn’t aways better, especially in a smaller device.

You might as well be asking why people buy screwdrivers and pliers instead of a single Leathermen.

Some more comments for thought,

From ciroknight

PDAs might be cool toys, they do a lot that a PC can do, and you can carry it in your pocket. Pretty cool eh? But when it comes down to it, what does the device actually do? Hard to define; it can do calendars, it can do media playback, it can do telephony, it can do internet-related tasks. But on the overall, it's a very obscure device.

– Indeed, its one of the things which makes it difficult to explain to people. One moment I'm using it as a mp3 player then a video player next moment a skype or im device and at the end of the day I'm using it to take notes at a meeting. It works for me but its a hard concept to sell and it requires installing many pieces of software and some configuration.

There was lots of talk about storage too.

Unless you sprung for extra storage, the space on your PDA is measured in tens of megabytes. On an iPod, it's measured in tens of gigabytes.

I dont think that's the main issue, because the psp has equal storage levels to a modern PocketPC (1/2gig maximum). Yes its nothing compared to the 100gigs which are now possible. But I expect Flash Drive pocketpc will be arriving soon, as hard drives are still very power hungrey.

The impact of Crackberries (backberries) has also had an effect on the image of pocketpc in the business world just like how most pocketpc have moved into the mobile world. Hence the change of operating system name, WindowsCE to PocketPC to Windows Mobile.

As someone said,
People who make generic statements such as “PDAs have failed” are just simply wrong.

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RSS enabled Windows Vista

PDC 2005 banner

So after a long wait details about Windows Vista's RSS ability are starting to emerge. Amar Gandhi (Group Program Manager of the Windows RSS team) presented “Windows Vista: Building RSS-enabled applications” at PDC 2005 just a few days ago. Sean is planning on putting more details on the Longhorn Team RSS blog soon. But till then I found the powerpoint presentation from Amar Gandhi online. Now if anyone has a video of the demo's that would be great.

On a related tip, Microsoft and Amazon have got together to launch A9 Open search into IE7. Two huge megacorps working together with open standards, this can't be happening? Or can it?

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